Author Interview: US Paranormal Author A. M. Manay on Inspiration, Writing, and More
Today, I talk to A. M. Manay about where she gets her inspiration from, what drew her to paranormal fiction, how she creates her characters, and more. It was great to host her, and I am sure you will find these insights into writing and the creative process as fascinating as I did. Her latest book, She Lights Up the Dark (November Snow, Book 2), is out on April 19th.
Welcome to The Muse, and thanks for dropping by. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the sort of books you write?
I'm a former Chemistry teacher and current stay-at-home mom. I love music, books, and pop culture in general. I'm an amateur singer, and I enjoy yoga. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and currently reside in Northern California with my husband and son.
The November Snow Series is paranormal new adult fantasy (vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc.). My next series will likely be more epic fantasy oriented.
What attracts you to writing paranormal fantasy, as opposed to any other genre?
I think it almost happened by accident, because I find it to be a lot of fun, both to read and to write. I confess that I enjoy escapism. When I began writing She Dies at the End, I initially came up with the idea for November, my main character. The primary image I had in mind was of a young girl with psychic powers working at a carnival.
I started playing around with the idea of what would happen to her if she ran into supernatural creatures. The novel simply grew from there. I was initially only writing it for fun, because I was feeling a bit bored and isolated at home with a toddler. So I wrote a book I'd like to read, I suppose. I think of it as vampire fiction for the thinking person.
What inspires you to write?
I think, for me, that it's about characters I want to spend time with and a world I want to explore. I just really enjoy daydreaming, and then I enjoy writing down what I come up with and trying to make that compelling.
Do you mainly base your characters on real people, or are they completely fictional creations?
They're quite fictional, especially the primary characters, though sometimes a particular detail or look might be inspired by a person I know or see on the street. The description of Miles in She Lights Up the Dark, for example, is partly based on a homeless guy I know in Oakland. Sometimes I imagine which celebrity might play a character in the movie version of my book in order to solidify characteristics for myself as I write.
Certainly my life experience impacts the characters I create. For example, I married into an Indian family, and I included an Indian primary character in my series. Would I have done that if my husband weren't Indian? Maybe not.
Because of my life as an urban school teacher and as a mom of a biracial child, having characters of color play pivotal roles in my fiction is extremely important to me. Representation matters. So I do think about the real world when I'm coming up with all my darlings.
People sometimes link the author with their main protagonist, assuming or speculating that the character is a version of the author’s own personality, beliefs and attitudes. Are your main protagonists much like you?
November is very little like me, except, I suppose, in appearance. I'm sure some of my personal values make their way into her personality, but she is her own person. She is much tougher and more assertive than I am, much more willing to take risks, and at the same time, much more wary. She's also a very compassionate and forgiving person. I strive to be compassionate, but I think she's in many ways more successful at it.
Could you, or have you, ever written a story with a main protagonist whose beliefs or behaviors you strongly disagree with?
Definitely. I think it's interesting to try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is quite different from you. And even a villain is the hero of his own story. Luka, the villain in the November Snow series, is a ton of fun to write, and he does terrible things. Just because a primary character does something that is morally wrong doesn't mean the author is endorsing that behavior, after all.
I think characters should make mistakes, even ones who are essentially good people— perhaps especially those ones.
Do you find it easier or harder to write characters of the same gender as yourself?
I find it easier to write a woman, especially if she's the point-of-view character. Perhaps I should try writing more from a male perspective, but I find that most of the stories I am drawn to tell have something bound up in the struggles, experiences, and vulnerabilities of womanhood. I also worry that the voice of a male main character might be less authentic.
Do you think it is more important for a novel to be entertaining, or to be of artistic, cultural, and/or intellectual value?
I think it depends on what you're looking for that day. I think all types of fiction have value, and even "trashy" genre fiction can provoke thought or discussion or vibrant imaginings in the reader. I make no pretense of being a great artist, but I do try to make my entertaining, escapist fiction beautiful in its own way. I do try to explore some socially relevant themes, like issues of racism or LGBT equality. But mostly, I set out to write a good yarn with memorable characters. That can be enough.
If you knew that nobody but you were ever going to read a book you wrote, would you still write it?
Yes. When I first started, the only person I was trying to please was me. Then I let my husband read it. For me, it's about the artistic and intellectual outlet that creating the characters and story provides.
Sometimes I get caught up in the question of whether "enough" people will read my stuff, or the fact that it's hard to make any money from an indie book. That is a discouraging line of thought, I think for all of us. So it's nice that this question reminds me that even if very few read my books, they will probably still enjoy them, and I most certainly enjoyed writing them.
What is your top editing or proofreading tip for producing a high quality book?
I think it is crucial to proofread on paper at least once during your editing process. It's easy to miss little mistakes on the computer screen.